Internship Vs. Job: Which Is Best During the School Year?

By Ashley Paskill on October 9, 2018

In this day and age, having experience from an internship is just as important when trying to find a job as having a degree. Unfortunately, 50% of internships in the United States in 2016 were unpaid positions. With the rising cost of tuition and living expenses, students are finding it increasingly difficult to justify having an internship in place of a full-time position during the school year.

There are many benefits to having an internship, even if it is an unpaid internship, such as finalizing a career path and networking. However, some students need to have a part-time job to support them. During the school year, the decision between working part-time and having an internship is difficult, especially with classes and student organizations. If you are trying to make a decision, here are some things to consider when making your decision.

Benefits of the job or internship

When considering whether you should take a job or an internship, think about the benefits of each. This will help you figure out what is best for your situation at the time. For example, students can often arrange to get credit for doing an internship. Since many colleges require internships in order for you to graduate, taking the internship will help you graduate on time or sooner. Some internships are paid in addition to offering college credit. Many internships also give out other perks, like event tickets, to interns. If you are receiving college credit, you may need to pay for the credits, so taking an internship during the school year will have you under that year’s financial aid, while taking an internship for credit over the summer may not be covered. Check with your school for specifics on financial aid over the summer.

For many students, money is the main factor in taking a job or an internship. While some internships are paid, many are not, especially ones offered during the school year. Therefore, they may need to work part-time in order to pay tuition and bills. Many part-time retail positions do offer flexibility in scheduling, especially if you work on campus. If possible, have a couple of days devoted to your internship and have the rest of the week devoted to your classes. You can even see if your job will allow you to only work on weekends or a couple hours a day. It is a lot to juggle, but if you stay organized, you may be able to do everything. You may also choose to work full-time over the summer and set that money aside so you can focus on classes, internships, and organizations during the school year. Jobs may offer benefits such as health insurance, but many colleges offer health insurance benefits as well. Take time to compare your options for what benefits work best for you.


The goal of having an internship is to get hands-on experience and apply what you have learned in class to a real-world setting. If you are a freshman, chances are you are still learning many of the basics of your field and do not have the knowledge you would need in order to be successful in an internship. In this case, getting a part-time job would be beneficial.

The summer can seem long and if you are not taking classes over the summer, it can be difficult to retain the information you learned from the previous year. Taking an internship over the summer allows you to keep your skills up while getting valuable experience.

Jobs and Internships

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Your schedule

Your personal schedule, from classes to organizations, is one of the most important factors in deciding whether to take a job or internship. While most part-time jobs are flexible with classes and can offer hours over the weekend, many internships only offer shifts during the week and need anywhere from 10 to 40 hours a week.

Also, you will need to factor your commute into your decision. Many college campuses have cafes, stores, and other spaces that offer part-time jobs that you can easily get to between classes or once you are done classes for the day. However, you will likely need to travel off-campus for an internship. If you require public transportation, you need to account for walking to and from drop-off locations as well as the possibility of the transportation being late. If you are driving, you will need to keep traffic in mind.

Student organizations on campus

If your college or major does not require that you need an internship to graduate, look into student organizations that can offer you experience that you would have gained at an internship. Many colleges have organizations based on majors, which look great on a resume.

If you are a journalism major, for instance, your school likely has a newspaper that you can be involved with. This allows you to get hands-on experience without having to leave campus. Set aside time each week to devote to the organization of your choice and schedule your part-time job shifts around the time you need. Also, volunteering is a great way to get experience. There are opportunities in many fields for volunteer work. This work is done on your own time and schedule, so you are able to take a job and gain experience.

By Ashley Paskill

Uloop Writer

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